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Switzerland today will hold a national vote on whether to limit the country's foreign population, a move the government and industry say would have disastrous effects.

The so-called "initiative for the regulation of immigration" would insert in the constitution a clause that foreign residents can make up a maximum 18 percent of the population.

Its backers are a group of lawmakers who argue the measure is needed to stem a flood of cheap foreign labor and a steady increase in the foreign population.

But the government and economic heavyweights argue it would be catastrophic for the country, locking out experts in crucial areas such as health and information technology and damaging tourism.

The Swiss vote comes at a time when immigration is a sensitive issue across Europe as nations grapple with an aging population and increasing anti-foreigner sentiment.

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